As a longtime educator, Yvette T. Soklove, Esq., said she has seen many of her students go on to do wonderful things. But the focus, she has noticed, is always on the young people who have chosen a negative path.
"It's never on the good ones," said Soklove, a sixth-grade teacher at Pleasantville Middle School and an attorney.
To counteract the negativity, Soklove has founded Positive 365, a program that highlights the achievements of exceptional young people in our communities.
"I felt compelled to shine a light on a positive things our young people are doing,"she said. Her program is called Positive 365 because "every day a young person is doing something positive."
Positive 365 kicked off in January, and each month the program selects an local outstanding young person, age 25 or younger, to be its representative.
"They are people who are going above and beyond, young people doing things that would blow your mind," Soklove said. "The idea is display that 'wow factor' and also to inspire others to go on and do great things. To think, 'If this person can do it, then so can I.'"
The program's first honoree was Galloway Township resident Cierra Kaler-Jones, 19, a pre-law honors student at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, a member of the Rutgers University Dance Team, an intern with the New Jersey Attorney General and contestant in the upcoming Miss New Jersey pageant.
Kaler-Jones, a 2011 graduate of Absegami High School, also gradated in the top 5 percent of her class.
This month's recipient is Matthew Sykes, 25, an Atlantic City native who is a Skadden fellow at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, where he runs the South Jersey Educational Reentry Program, which helps mobilize lawyers on behalf of children in the juvenile justice system in Atlantic and Camden counties. The June recipient will be Ayana Cox, a senior at Atlantic City High School and a resident of Atlantic City.
Cox is president of her senior class and was president of her junior class. She belongs to the school's swim, golf, basketball, cheerleading, cross country, tennis and crew teams, and has been on the honor roll through her high school career.
After learning she had been chosen to represent Positive 365 for June, Cox said she is proud to be a model for her peers.
"It's a great feeling to know that I'm on the right path, but it's even more amazing to be a role model," she said. "Especially in the pool, I feel like I'm not just swimming for myself, I'm swimming for other people like me."
The monthly representatives are nominated by community members and then selected by Soklove. Representatives are publicly acknowledged through local radio interviews with R.O.C.K. Breakthrough Show with Laua Colvin and "On the Reel Radio" with Yolanda Landy Robinson, and an article in the Anointed News Journal, a publication founded by CEO Rev. Chris Collins of Camden, which is intended to empower people around the world.
Soklove is looking into additional ways to promote the program's representatives. Through Positive 365, she said, she too has been inspired by these youths.
"They are motivational not just to other young people, but for all of us," Soklove said.
Contact Elisa Lala:
How to help
To nominate a young person for Positive 365 honors, contact Yvette Soklove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-743-2874. Nominations must be accompanied by a biography of the nominee, who must be age 25 or younger. See facebook.com/pages/Positive365/448594481892198.